The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

helmet on the ground

I hadn’t planned on doing a New Years/year end post until I turned on the Sun Bowl Game and something sort of clicked (or clunked depending on the reader’s point of view). It certainly doesn’t feel like New Years Eve.

It was a desultory little crowd at the Sun Bowl Game in El Paso, Texas. The game between Washington State University and Central Michigan was a fitting microcosm of COVID 2021.

Traditionally the holiday season calendar, particularly the days leading up to and including New Years Day, includes, for the football fan at least, a gift basket of bowl games, from the venerable, over century old Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, to the Mayo Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Did you say Mayo Bowl?

I did. The sponsor of that game happens to be Duke’s Mayo. Sometimes I shake my head at the bowl game names.

Pardon me waiter, can I have a bowl of mayo with my steamed artichokes. A little squeeze of lemon in the mayo please.

I know somebody who takes her French fries with mayo, which is as horrifying as ranch dressing with pizza.

This isn’t about bad food pairings though. It’s about COVID.

COVID has been playing a shell game of late and the sucker has been the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA for you fans of acronyms) and its bowl season.

Follow the shells carefully because I don’t want to have to repeat this.

When all of this started, around the time that omicron was achieving celebrity status, the University of Miami was slated to play Washington State in the Sun Bowl, and Boise State University was supposed to square off against Central Michigan, 300 miles away in the Arizona Bowl, in Tucson, Arizona.

Miami had to cancel out because it got a case of the COVIDs. That left Washington State without an opponent in the Sun Bowl. Meanwhile 1000 miles north of Tucson, in Idaho, Boise State shut down its football program due to COVID. Now Central Michigan was left without an opponent in the Arizona Bowl.

The organizers and sponsors of both games went into scramble mode and the upshot was that Central Michigan packed up all its possibles and went to El Paso to play WSU in the Sun Bowl and the Arizona Bowl was cancelled.

Why cancel the Arizona Bowl? That’s easy. As James Carville so famously quipped, back in 1992, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

The Arizona Bowl, first played in 2015 was going to be streamed for TV on the Barstool Sports platform (Barstool, a digital media company, was sponsoring the game) and each of the participating schools would receive a payout of $350,000.

The Sun Bowl, with a history dating back to 1935, was going to be aired on a major network, CBS, with a payout to each school of $4.55 million.

And so the big giant heads at CMU got together. “Hmmm, $350K v 4.55 mil. In one hand 350K and in the other 4.55 mil. Hmmm. Which one should we take?” The big giant heads looked at each other. I imagine that it took CMU about a nanosecond to decide to leave the Arizona Bowl and Barstool Sports and its founder David Portnoy at the altar.

This all led to Portnoy’s complaint. No, not the novel by Phillip Roth, the hissy fit that David Portnoy threw, when he got his wedding dress all ruffled after Boise bailed and CMU bolted.

Portnoy pointed his bony Twitter finger directly north at Boise State, saying that only “a couple” of the Broncos players had tested positive (it’s not clear how many tested positive but it seems logical that the school wouldn’t shut down its program for two positive tests). Portnoy added that Boise was relying on antiquated standards (because COVID-19 has been around for two years and now two years equals antiquated).

Portnoy, who graduated college with a degree in Education, apparently considers himself to be an expert in epidemiology. He must have learned it on YouTube. There’s a lot of that going around these days. America, it seems, now has a glut of virologists and epidemiologists, all having graduated with a BS from YouTube U. I’ll leave the reader to deduce what BS stands for in this instance.

The cancellation of the Arizona Bowl started a social media war, because, well, what doesn’t start a social media war?

Portnoy was on the short end of the most basic of economic theories, that is, money talks and bullshit walks. In this case 350k compared to 4.55 mil was a steaming pile.

To paraphrase Mitch McConnell, Nevertheless, he persisted. It was quite a fine whine.

Good old Dave, who seems to be the chief “bro” of the macho, obnoxious, juvenile and usually misogynist “bro” culture got mixed reviews on social media largely because he was acting like a petulant child and also because he’s cultivated a reputation for being something of a DB – and I don’t mean defensive back. (In a 2010 blog post Portnoy opined “Even though I never condone rape if you’re a size 6 and you’re wearing skinny jeans you kind of deserve to be raped right?” After being called to task, Portnoy claimed that he was making a joke. Click the link for the story).

The battle of the bowl on social media included everything we’ve become accustomed to seeing over the past two years. The virus isn’t much worse than a cold; the virus is deadly; 99.99% survive; scientists are right; scientists are bullshitters; “my cousin/brother/friend/total stranger,_______(fill in the blank) told me that_______(fill in the blank)”; don’t be selfish; Trump did it; Biden did it; Fauci did it; it’s all about greed; science denier; sheeple; yeah, but what about; oh more whataboutism.

The point was made, and probably rightly so, that if COVID had struck any of the four teams in the National Championship Tournament, the games would go on and COVID be damned. That’s because over the last two years we’ve learned a new economic principal that if enough money talks then COVID walks (it doesn’t really but when boatloads of coin of the realm are involved we pretend hard that COVID will walk).

Add to all of this the awkward situation that both CMU and Washington State had been designated the visiting teams for their respective games and since visiting teams traditionally wear road white uniforms, both teams travelled with their road white uniforms.

It might have made for a very entertaining game if both teams took the field in their whites with red trim, but cooler (and more killjoy) heads prevailed and CMU was designated the home team. This left CMU with the task of having to overnight its home uniforms from Mount Pleasant, Michigan to El Paso which must have put a dent in that $4.55 million, but certainly left more than 350K.

But wait, there’s more. Football teams take great pains to game plan for an upcoming opponent. Both WSU and CMU had prepared for opponents that ended up sitting out their respective games, leaving coaches and players to apparently put game plans together on the fly.

Oh but there’s still more. Bowl games typically attract school alumni, fans and family to the stands. There are likely fans of both Miami and Boise who are now the not so happy holders of airline credit vouchers, and bank accounts made lighter after they cancelled hotel reservations.

Many of the events that were planned in Tucson around the Arizona Bowl were cancelled along with the game. Local charities and businesses that would have benefitted from the game are now left tallying losses instead of raking in gains.

In the end this turned out badly for anyone not named Central Michigan University (WSU lost the game).

Which one of you boys and girls can be the first on your block to find all the issues of COVID 2021 that are all floating together in this big bowl (game)?

I’m lucky. COVID has been little more than an inconvenience for me. That isn’t to say that COVID hasn’t touched me, but it’s been a light touch.

During a road trip through the Midwest I spent one night in an emergency room in a Central Illinois town (no, not for COVID). I remarked to one of the ER nurses that I have a niece who is an infectious disease specialist who always has to dress up for work like she’s going for a space walk. She responded, in a tired, frustrated voice, “We used to do that here. We finally just gave up.”

What she did wear was a look of weariness and disgust. As she left my room I thanked her. “Thanks, that means a lot,” she said. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. I’m sure that she often gets words of thanks. She’d probably happily trade in those thank-yous for more cooperation from the unvaccinated, the careless and the self centered.

A young man who briefly dated my daughter when they were in high school died recently from COVID. He was in his mid-thirties. Another set of parents who buried their child.

I worry, more than I used to, when I text a friend and then don’t get a response. I texted a former coworker a couple of weeks ago. I need to give her a call to make sure that…well you know.

In September, when I started my Midwest road trip, America was 51% fully vaccinated. I felt confident that by the beginning of October we’d be 61% fully vaccinated and I’d feel more secure in my travels. Ha. We just hit 62%. I’m pissed and disappointed. But not surprised.

Let’s see, have I left anything out?

Just a few minor things.

In 2021 the U.S. had an insurrection which a sitting congressman compared to a tour group going through the House chambers; we had the inauguration of a president who a large portion of the nation doesn’t believe won the election; a second impeachment that failed; in 2021 the letter Q became known for a reason other than being worth 10 points in Scrabble; a largely empty Olympiad in Tokyo; California and the Western States caught fire – again; the U.S rejoined the Paris Accords to help combat climate change and then shortly after that the Biden Administration granted new leases to oil companies to drill in the Gulf of Mexico; we have what amounts to a de facto president, a guy who didn’t garner a single electoral vote yet seems to be running the whole show, a senator, a real flimflam man from, of all places, West Virginia.

Of course a number of celebrities passed away. The ones that touched me the most passed during the final days of the year; John Madden and Betty White.

Yeah it was a pretty crappy year. So is every outgoing year. What do we say every year? “This year really sucked. Good riddance to ________(fill in the year). God, next year has got to be better.”

For many, many people it was a bad year, a horrific year, a damned shitty year.


I’ve no cause to complain about 2021.

I have my house, and it’s paid for. I celebrated my 40th wedding anniversary in 2021. I took two memorable road trips because I had both the time and the resources and because I wanted to. I have two grown children who are doing well and four healthy grandchildren who are very smart (maybe too much so sometimes). I have this wonderful dog who makes my heart glad, who follows me around and whenever I pause she sits in front of me and looks up at me as if to ask, “Are we going to do something fun together now dad?” One of my closest friends who’s been going through rough times had a turnaround, albeit a small one, in his fortunes in 2021. I solidified a friendship with someone who I met in the blogosphere in late 2020. I’ve never met her but I count her as a dear friend. She’s made this baseless claim that I can write and she’s kept me to the grindstone whenever I’ve wanted to quit. I made another friend on the blogosphere who has opened my eyes to climate change and I actually had the opportunity to meet with him in Fargo, North Dakota. Hell, he even took me to see the wood chipper from the movie, Fargo.

I’m headed for 70 and I’m in pretty good shape if you don’t count two torn rotator cuffs, piles and too many episodes of gas at night.

I guess I could go on and on.

I’m on the correct side of Mother Earth. What could be better?


I don’t make resolutions but what I do need, is to do better. I need to be a better citizen and help at something. Help with climate change, or help the poor, or help the homeless, or help fight for justice.

I’m wishing for a good year for all, but especially for those who really did have a crappy 2021. The ones who lost homes, loved ones, livelihoods, sanity and happiness. I wish for them, at the very, very least, peace of mind.

I wish for more kindness and less bickering. More reason and less ignorance. More truth and fewer lies. More justice and less corruption. More benevolence and less avarice. Am I being too greedy? Too naïve?

I hope we can make 2022 a good year. A year in which we can say, “Damn, I wish this year could go on forever.”

12 thoughts on “A Bowl of COVID

  1. Steve says:

    I would hope more people become greedy for those things, Paul. I turned 47 this year and I feel at least 30 years older than that. So much fighting & arguing about “who’s right” as opposed to “what’s right”.

    I lost my estranged dad in October and my 14 year old rescue shepherd just a week before Christmas, along with several of our rescue animals this year. Mom was in the hospital several times this year for her heart (she’s doing alright now) and to top it all off, having my own “possible brain cyst”scare. My heart is absolutely shattered.

    But I’m so thankful for my nephew who’s own newfound love floor photography has stirred up my passion again. If all goes well, I’ll be starting a part time photography gig where I’ll be helping other animal lovers with End Of Life photo sessions at no cost. My way of giving back. I’ll also be looking into volunteering at my local animal shelter by helping give them some great photos to help other animals get adopted.

    Hoping for a spiritually & mentally fulfilled year for you and you family. 🙂

    1. Paul says:

      I’ve followed your year on social media and it’s certainly been a challenge to say the least.

      It’s good to know that you’re resuming your photography. You have a gift and your project will be gifting it to others.

      You have a good heart Steve. I hope that you’ll be blessed with a joyous and fruitful year.


  2. Thank you, Paul. My friend. And for the hilarious i mania recap, too. You made me laugh out loud.

    1. Paul says:

      Hi Martin, Glad that I could brighten your day. Anytime Portnoy complains is a good day in my book. Have a happy New Year.


  3. Toonsarah says:

    Yes, like you I’ve had only a mildly crappy year, messed up by Covid but no major damage. I think many of us would share your ambitions for the coming year too. Some of this post was a bit lost on my (the intricacies of US sports and the frequent references to bowls, which is what I eat my breakfast cereal from!) But here too sport is being seriously disrupted by Omicron, especially football (soccer to you), although matches are postponed rather than abandoned. My other take-away from this post? You really should try French fries with mayo – it’s a Belgian classic for a reason and these days my preferred way to eat them 🍟🍟

    1. Toonsarah says:

      PS Happy New Year 🎉🥂

      1. Paul says:

        Happy New Year Sarah

    2. Paul says:

      Happy New Year Sarah. The bowl games are end of season bonuses for college teams that had good regular season records. So many have cropped up in the past decade that now mediocre teams can get a bowl bid. Suffice to say that COVID forced the cancellation of some and played havoc with some of the games that went on as scheduled.

      French fries. Does aioli count?

  4. Jane Fritz says:

    A tour de force, Paul. Happy New Year to you. We will try to remain hopeful.

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you Jane. Wishing you a Happy New Year.

  5. eden baylee says:

    What do you have against mayo Paul? Haha!
    Next time, take a really good french fry and stick it in some mayo, delicious- I promise you! 😀
    And for the record, I make no baseless claims. Even when you’re writing about something I don’t have much interest in (football), you still make it sound interesting. Reminds me I should pull out my copy of Portnoy’s Complaint and reread it. I loved that book.

    Thrilled to be connected to you, and look forward to a creative and joyful 2022. I don’t think this is asking for too much.
    As for your wishes, it’s worth putting them out into the universe and I hope they all come true.


    1. Paul says:

      After giving it some thought and going into my French fry memory banks I recall having had fries with aioli, which is technically mayonnaise. And I liked it. That being said, I still prefer ketchup, or catsup, which is probably going to start a whole new debate.

      I’ve nothing against mayo per se. It’s a necessity on a tuna sandwich, for coleslaw or potato salad or my mom’s macaroni salad. Occasionally on a ham or turkey sandwich. When I was a kid, one of the neighborhood favorites was chopped black olives with mayo on white bread. Mmmmm, brings back memories.

      My New Year’s wish for you is indoor dining and a concert.


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